8 Steps to a Good First Impression - April 2013

8 Steps to a Good First Impression

So how comfortable are you with introducing yourself in front of a room full of people, or telling your story in a casual conversation? Your goal in having conversations with people is to give them ideas about what you are looking for, so they in turn, can pass on relevant information, contacts, and ideas to and about you. Your goal is to get them into a conversation and to ask questions. This could be at a cocktail party, job interview, kids baseball game, at the gym, talking over the fence or even while you're traveling.

How are you doing in this endeavor?

Let’s get you more comfortable with presenting your message, so that the seeds you plant today will bear more fruit tomorrow!

Your initial introduction is often called an elevator speech, a 30 second commercial, or as I like to call it, your verbal business card. Your goal with this introduction is to get someone’s attention long enough so that you can let them know what problems you can solve, allow them to engage with you, and to help connect you to the people who need those problems solved. When this happens you have lots of wonderful conversations with lots of people who truly understand your value and are happy to make connections for you! WOW!

To achieve these results, your introduction needs to be Clear, Concise, and Compelling. If these words sound familiar, it’s because we talked about these concepts in regards to your resume last month.

With your introduction, we are going to add one more ‘C’ to the equation. In order for your introduction to be Compelling, you must feel Comfortable with the way you talk about your value and your goals. If you don’t feel comfortable, your introduction will feel “canned” and boring.

You do need a formula: it just has to be one you are comfortable with for it to work.

  1. Clarify your job focus. As with all other parts of job search, if you are not clear about your job focus you will go in circles like a boat without a rudder. What is the type of position you want and what industry do you want to work in? If you can’t clearly verbalize this, no one can help you find it or hire you to do it.
  2. Write it out. Clarity often comes from writing things down. Write down everything you want a prospective employer to know about your accomplishments or skills and what you can do for them. Next grab a Sharpie and get rid of everything that isn't critical to your pitch. Edit until you are down to 3-4 key bullets points not sentences. Remember your goal is to grab their interest and leave them wanting to ask you questions; it is not to tell your whole career story, leave something for the conversation. Give them just your Core message. Also the written word is much different when it is spoken. You don’t want to memorize sentences; instead memorize your bullet points and elaborate from them. This will keep you from sounding ‘canned’.
  3. Format: A good Verbal Business Card should answer 3 questions: Who you are. What you do well. What you are looking for.
  4. It can be as simple as this: "Hi, I’m Lindsey, Lindsey Martinez. I am an attorney known for my deep and broad experience in media and technology. I’m looking for a corporate position in NY." That pitch is about 15 seconds. Now Lindsey would add another 15 seconds to describe unique details about herself, talk about a selling proposition, and list special skills or value she brings to an employer.
  5. This is about them, not you: Tailor your introduction to the people listening to your pitch as they will be listening to the WIFM (What’s in It for ME?) Focus. For example, “I’m a recruiter with 15 years of technology background” V/S “I’m a recruiting professional recognized for my ability to identify and secure top-level IT talent.” Using benefit-focused terminology helps point out the problem you can solve for a prospective employer.
  6. Eliminate company or industry jargon: It may make you feel smart but using acronyms and tech-speak that others may not understand is irritating. The last thing you want to do is confuse someone who may be trying to help you.
  7. Practice, practice, and then practice some more and ask for feedback. I suggest you start practicing your Verbal Business Card in the shower, in front of a mirror, or while driving. Then with pets and small kids, and graduate to supportive people who will give you solid, honest feedback. Ask them to comment on your key points and what it is that you do particularly well. Ask how compelling you were and how natural you seemed. If their feedback does not match your objectives, you need to keep tweaking.
  8. Variations: Because you are always keeping your audience in mind and WIFT you need to vary your presentations. You should have one for someone who is in your industry, one for someone in your field, one for an interview and one for someone who isn't in your field or industry but may be able to help if they understand what you are looking for. You may get 10 seconds or you may get a minute or two. This is the same information you give when someone asks you this question in an interview, “Tell me about yourself”. You usually have about 2 minutes to answer. It is also the same information that goes in your Bio or profile, and the summary of your resume. This is called branding; it always needs to have the same basic message delivered in a slightly different way. Master your Key Talking Points and then you will be able to customize them for all situations. For the record, this would be about 75 words or 30 seconds.
  9. Confidence: This has to be your presentation and it has to be conveyed comfortably or it will sink like a lead balloon. Practice and make sure you are comfortable with what you are saying and eventually it will roll off your tongue like butter.

The Rules or Additional Tips:

  • Know your Audience.
  • Keep in mind this is about THEM not YOU.
  • Don’t forget James Bond’s introduction. “I’m Bond….James…Bond.” The pauses give punch and clarity.
  • Why are you the one who can make a difference for them?
  • What do you have to offer them?
  • What is your Claim to Fame? This is what you are known for professionally.
  • Use humor (not a joke) “I’m in the drug business…I’m a chemist” to be remembered.
  • Worried you sound like you are bragging? Let others blow your horn for you. “I’ve been told”, “I have a reputation for”, “I’m known as”.
  • End again with your name. “Once again, my name is Rebecca…Rebecca…Kieler.

No one said this is easy, but it will get more comfortable and once it gets more comfortable it will be easier, and you will be much more successful. Remember, this pitch is not just for job search, you should always be able to give this type of introduction because you never know what opportunities are out there waiting to find the right person!